Schizoaffective disorder: Symptoms, causes, and diagnosis

Schizoaffective disorder is a psychiatric condition that includes the symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), schizoaffective disorder encompasses many of the diagnostic features of schizophrenia with a mood component.

In this article, we explore the characteristics, causes, and diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, as well as possible routes of treatment.

What is schizoaffective disorder?

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Schizoaffective disorder combines symptoms of mood disorders and schizophrenia.

The DSM-5 describes schizoaffective disorder as “intermediate between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and [it] may not be a separate diagnostic entity.”

For this reason, some people refer to the combination of schizophrenia and mood disorder symptoms as schizoaffective-type schizophrenia, although this is not a type of schizophrenia recognized by the DSM-5.

Schizoaffective disorder may include bipolar symptoms, such as mania or depression, as well as features of schizophrenia, including hallucinations and delusions. Symptoms can also include erratic speech or behavior and a lack of emotional expression and motivation

A person with schizoaffective disorder may experience auditory hallucinations, which means hearing sounds and voices that are not real. They may also experience delusions and paranoia. Speech and thinking may be disorganized, and a person may find it hard to function both socially and at work.

One study from Finland estimated that schizoaffective disorder occurs in around 3 in every 1,000 people. However, due to difficulties in separating the condition from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the real prevalence of this set of symptoms is unknown.

Treatment can help, but schizoaffective disorder is a complex condition, and it is harder to treat than a mood disorder alone.

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A psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner can diagnose schizoaffective disorder.

A medical professional will base their diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder on a person’s self-reported experiences, as well as descriptions of unusual or uncharacteristic behavior reported by family members, friends, and colleagues.

A psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner might diagnose schizoaffective disorder in a clinical assessment.

A number of criteria define the condition. These criteria focus on a person’s specific signs and symptoms, as well as how long they have been experiencing these effects.

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